Once enacted, the legislation, which would provide citizens of major U.S. allies a course of redress regarding information shared with U.S. law enforcement, will bolster the U.S.'s position in the Privacy Shield pact reached last week with the EU to replace the Safe Harbor agreement thrown out by a European court in October.
"By allowing citizens of European nations and other designated U.S. allies procedural privacy protections similar to those offered to U.S. citizens in Europe, the United States can provide equal privacy rights to our allied trading partners and foster global economic progress," Mark MacCarthy, senior vice president of public policy at the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), said in a statement emailed to SCMagazine.com. "Enactment of the Judicial Redress Act is key to final approval of the Privacy Shield, as well as implementation of the ‘umbrella' agreement on data transfers for law enforcement purposes between the U.S. and E.U."
Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) in a statement hailed the Senate vote as bringing “us one step closer toward completing an important agreement between the United States and our European allies, allowing the exchange of critical information and rebuilding trust between nations.”
That trust had taken a hit in the harsh light of Edward Snowden's revelations of U.S. spying on its own citizens and its allies.
The House approved its version of the judicial redress in October and a Senate Judiciary Committee had given it the thumbs up on Jan. 28. The Committee sent it to the full Senate for a vote, just days before a crucial Safe Harbor deadline and amid fears that the lag in passing Judicial Redress would prevent that agreement from being reached. Ostensibly, once the deadline passed, the EU could start imposing fines on American multinationals transferring data between countries.
But the EU and U.S. reached what is known as the Privacy Shield pact just days later without Senate action on the Judicial Redress Act. But all eyes were on the Senate to see if the U.S. would make good on offering promised privacy protections for non-U.S. citizens.
On Wednesday, the Senate reconciled the House version of the act with its own and it easily passed both chambers of Congress.
Under the Judicial Redress Act, foreign citizens will have the same judicial redress that Americans do if their personal information is misused by federal agencies in pursuit of law enforcement action. In other words, law enforcement and intelligent agencies are not allowed to spy on foreigners unless they show just cause—and if authorities step outside of the bounds of that protection, then they have the right to judicial redress. Passage of the act will likely smooth the path for law enforcement to share information during investigations of cybercrime and other illegal activities that cross borders.
“The ability to transfer data between international law enforcement agencies is paramount to our nation's safety,” Sensenbrenner said.